Slavic Brotherhood: Joint military operation of Serbia and Russia

Despite unconfirmed media claims that Russian spies were recently expelled from Serbia, the two countries are set to hold their second joint military exercise in less than a month.

A joint military drill entitled Slavic Brotherhood, involving the Serbian, Russian and Belarusian armies, will start on Thursday near the capital Belgrade, just days after media claims that several Russian spies were expelled from Serbia. 

The Serbian Defence Ministry said the exercise involving special military units from Serbia and Belarus and Russian special air forces will gather about 700 soldiers. 

The reported aim of the six-day exercise is to prepare the troops for special anti-terrorism operations involving the attacks on a “terrorist camp”. 

The second Slavic Brotherhood drill – the first was held in the Russian city of Novorossiysk in last October – will see over 150 paratroopers from the Separate Reconnaissance Battalion of Russia’s Ivanovo Airborne Division. 

“Taking into account the specific nature and the plan for the drills, the servicemen of the Separate Reconnaissance Battalion were chosen to take part in the exercise,” the Russian Defense Ministry’s press service said on Monday.

The drill is to take part two weeks after claims by Belgrade officials that “Western and Eastern” intelligence agencies are very active in Serbia.

In a dramatic press conference on October 24, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Serbia had arrested several people for planning illegal activities in Montenegro – but insisted that the Serbian state had nothing to do with these acts, mentioning connections to a third, unnamed country.

Montenegro’s authorities, however, said they suspected that Moscow might have been behind an alleged coup prepared for election day in the republic on October 16.

Several Serbian and Russian media have also reported that Belgrade has expelled several Russians for their alleged involvement in illegal activities in Montenegro. 

The reported expulsions come as Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev visited Serbia last week, advocating closer cooperation between the countries’ respective intelligence agencies.

Both the Serbian Interior Ministry and the Russia embassy in Belgrade later denied such claims, officially claiming good relations between the two Slavic nations, but the public was left in the dark about the alleged espionage claims. 

Military cooperation between Serbia and Russia has been increasing in the last four years, and Slavic Brotherhood is the second military drill involving Serbian and Russian troops in less than a month. 

(Balkan Insight, BIRN, 02.11.2016)

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